Subpar Subpoenas

Students for Fair Admissions’ decision to subpoena several public high schools is unnecessary.

High Schools Subpoenaed

Students for Fair Admissions, an anti-affirmative action advocacy group, has subpoenaed several public high schools to aid its ongoing legal case against Harvard. The suit accuses the University of discrimination against Asian American applicants. The schools named in the subpoenas—Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Stuyvesant High School, and Monta Vista High School—are among the top high schools in the country, consistently sending a large number of their graduates to Harvard and other top schools. Nevertheless, we oppose the action of SFFA to involve high schools, as their demands bring unnecessary trouble to students who do not wish to be involved in this case.

SFFA’s subpoena requires that these high schools divulge the racial demographics of students who applied to Harvard. By using the personal information of applicants who have no desire to be involved in the lawsuit, SFFA seeks to invade students’ privacy to advance their political cause. Indeed, they are unfairly drawing high school students into a heavily politicized and controversial debate for SFFA’s benefit. Instead, we would urge the organization to solely represent the interests of students who have requested legal assistance. This is especially true given that this subpoena places a burden on these schools to collect information in a relatively short window of time—the lawsuit will only remain in the discovery period until June 20.

As SFFA has chosen racially homogeneous high schools to include in its case, it is unlikely that the requested admissions reports will shed light on the issue. Sixty-one percent of students at Thomas Jefferson, 73 percent of those at Stuyvesant, and 78 percent of those at Monta Vista are of Asian descent. Conducting a statistical analysis of their applicants to Harvard is unlikely to yield particularly informative results. The majority of applicants—both admitted and rejected—from these schools are likely to be Asian American because the majority of students in general are Asian American. Comparisons among different racial groups’ acceptance rate will be unreliable indicators of any pattern of discrimination.

Indeed, these schools serve as examples of why, as we have previously opined, affirmative action is still necessary. Stuyvesant is only 0.63 percent black and 2.48 percent Hispanic. One of New York City’s other top high schools, Staten Island Technical High School, recently admitted just one black student to its next class.


The lack of Latino and black students at feeder schools for Harvard and other top universities should illustrate the disadvantages faced by these racial minorities early on in the education system. When Latino and black students are denied admission to these schools, they are denied access to a prestigious public education and a well-prepared advising office. In short, they are shut out of the resources needed to get into top colleges.

We would urge such high schools to consider the factors that inhibit minority students from gaining admission. These include the disproportionate amount of community support and funding given to prosperous high schools in wealthy, predominantly white and Asian suburbs like Monta Vista.

Even within school districts, however, inequalities persist. The Specialized High School Admissions Test in New York City—a single test that determines acceptance into the city’s top public high schools, including Stuyvesant—appears objective at first glance, but in reality perpetuates a racial achievement gap. Low-income minority students are less likely to pay for test-prep classes and other tools needed to maximize one’s score.

Instead of bolstering SFFA’s argument, to us this subpoena demonstrates the inequity in the college admissions process that necessitates affirmative action. The homogenous high school student bodies in these schools should serve as clear examples of how certain racial minorities face systemic disadvantages when they apply to elite institutions of higher education.Colleges must continue to take race into account when evaluating applicants. Minority students do not receive a leg up on the competition; instead, they get a chance to compete in the first place. This country’s legacy of economic and educational discrimination has hurt the ability of certain racial groups to access the tools to prepare for college, and we hope that SFFA’s misguided effort better considers the context of affirmative action when pursuing further actions in its ongoing lawsuit.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.